Powerful Paper Documents Thrive in a Digital World

Now that so many digital and mobile communication channels are available to businesses, you may be wondering if it is worthwhile to keep communicating on paper. Though electronic communications can be influential and interactive, it may surprise you to discover paper outperforms electronic alternatives in several areas.

Using a variety of coordinated communication methods, including print, almost always improves results over single-channel approaches. The best strategy is recognizing the unique benefits each channel provides and then exploiting those individual advantages to meet your objectives.


Direct mail is consistently rated by consumers as the most acceptable method for unsolicited messaging. Consumers and business people don’t want companies with whom they have no existing relationship to approach them by telephone, email, or text. Mail is a highly visible yet less intrusive alternative. Smart marketers send direct mail that includes compelling offers or actions for mail recipients to complete online. Additional collected information such as permission to send future e-mail or text messages opens the door to further communication across multiple channels.


Recipients generally perceive their mail to come from trustworthy sources. They consider paper documents as safe and private. Consumers and businesses do not protect themselves from mail by invoking the draconian measures used to combat electronically-delivered viruses and scams, which prevent some electronic messages from being read.


Printed material has staying power. Electronic communications tend to have a short shelf life while magazine articles, catalogs, or important notices can survive for months stuck on refrigerators or stacked on coffee tables. Over 90% of consumers retrieve and review at their physical mail every day. The comparable open rate for marketing email isn’t even close.


When communicating on paper the producer of the documents controls almost all aspects of distribution and presentation. There are no firewalls, spam filters, or junk folders to overcome. Printed images will always be visible. Physical documents do not feature unsubscribe buttons and the colors, calls to action, graphics, and layout of documents will be consistent across the intended audience. The message recipient’s mobile device or their email client won’t alter the intended presentation of the information.


For communications where geographic location is a factor, delivering to a physical address has a big advantage. Mailers can target offers and messages to neighborhoods, dwelling types, and several other factors connected to physical addresses. If mail recipients have moved, the postal service can forward the mail or inform mailers of the new address.


Successfully sending mail to an existing physical address is almost always assured, but communicating by email often results in delivery to abandoned email addresses. Besides having negative effects on response rates, some of those abandoned email addresses eventually become spam traps. Unwittingly mailing to old email addresses that internet service providers have taken over to catch unscrupulous spammers damages corporate email reputations. If a business domain name is tagged with spam complaints ALL the organization’s emails may face deliverability problems.

Paper documents play an integral part in business communications strategies. More often than not, companies must begin relationships with prospects and customers using paper documents before they add electronic communications to the mix. The clutter of digital communications and the filters people use to deal with that clutter don’t impede messages delivered on paper. Used intelligently with other channels of communication, paper is a key component of communication effectiveness.

How do paper documents play a role in your business? Share your thoughts.

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